Audrey made her way through the dim forest hugging the spell-book to her and feeling empty. Barely aware of her surroundings, she did still note a subtle lightening of the forest. Was it dawn? An oddly optimistic state for the garden if her theory of the cycles of day and night being tied to their circumstances was true. Had she made the right choice? Would she even still come to this garden in her dreams if she were back at home?

Stopping at the edge of the clearing with the lake, Audrey saw Nadine was already there. Standing with only her right side facing Audrey, Nadine a had somber expression that mirrored the way Audrey was feeling perfectly. Their eyes met and their shared emptiness seemed to flood the clearing with an interminable void.

“Hey,” Nadine turned toward Audrey.

Gasping, Audrey saw Nadine’s entire left side was badly beat up. Audrey wasn’t sure if it was all bruising or if some of it might be burns. Nadine’s left eye was swollen shut and her lip was split. Of course, now that she was paying attention Audrey could see bruising on Nadine’s right arm and leg too.

“Yip! Yip! Yip!” the void in the clearing was suddenly cut by the exuberance of the bounding dogling, Horera. “Woof! Yip! Browf!”

Horera was just about to launch into a figure eight sprint around Nadine and Audrey, when she saw Nadine’s injuries and slid to a hard stop.

“What happened?” Audrey finally addressed Nadine.

“Regina, a Super Soldier and the Crime Lord’s top Enforcer, came after me. JC, Phillipa and I did our best, but she was a bit out of our league…” Nadine turned her left side back toward the lake, “A man came to our rescue, but I got caught in one of Regina’s blasts.”

“Nadine okay?” Horera crawled over to Nadine and leaned into Nadine’s right leg.

Nadine’s hand drifted down to Horera’s head and she smiled, “I hope so. The blast knocked me out. I’ve been here all night.” Nadine looked back to Audrey with tears in her eye, “I, I wouldn’t be here, if I was dead. Right? I mean, dead people, don’t dream?”

Audrey’s grip on the spell-book tightened, “Why would you think you were dead?”

Crouching down, Nadine hugged Horera, “I’ve been here a long time. It was night, for hours. Then it started getting lighter, and you guys showed up.”

“Have you looked through your portal?”

“It’s totally dark…”

Could Nadine be dead? Even if she could, what should Audrey say? She’d gone too long without saying anything already. There had to be something she could say, or do. She had to say something! Do anything! Instead she just stood there. Helpless again.

Horera wiggled out of Nadine’s grip to fumble around her waistband. “Here,” Horera held up a flask of red liquid.

Nadine accepted the flask delicately from Horera, “What’s this, Horera?”

“Heal potion. Make better,” Horera resumed hugging Nadine, though deliberately left Nadine’s arms free to handle the potion. “Horera save silver wolf, White-Wisp. Save Nadine too.”

Downing the potion in one quick pull, Nadine gasped for air before giving a long relieved sigh. Audrey watched as Nadine’s injuries faded away, the swelling receded and Nadine’s left eye blinked open. Even Zedarra’s most potent healing invocations fell short of that level.








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